Putin Orders Reform After 62-Car Pileup

ReutersA rescue worker talking on the phone as a crane lifts a burned-out car after the pileup Monday near Krasnodar.
President Vladimir Putin gave the interior minister less than a week to find a way to reduce traffic accidents after a horrific 62-car pileup killed one person and injured 42 others Monday.

Eleven cars and a truck caught on fire in the morning pileup just outside the southern city of Krasnodar, Interfax reported.

Interfax blamed thick fog. The chief of the Krasnodar regional traffic police, Gennady Kazyulin, said the drivers also were at fault for not keeping a proper distance between cars despite the poor visibility, Mayak radio reported.

Putin reminded Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev during a Cabinet meeting that he had been ordered to reduce accidents six months ago and said he now had just a few days left to come up with a plan.

"Present a finalized solution to the raft of problems by the end of this week," Putin said in televised remarks.

Putin told Nurgaliyev to address in particular the problem with cars that use flashing blue lights to demand the right-of-way.

Nurgaliyev said 215 accidents involving drivers using the flashing lights had occurred in the past six months.

Cars with flashing lights are reserved for federal and regional officials but are often used by others. They are blamed for many of the accidents that kill 30,000 to 35,000 people in the country each year.

The most notable accident occurred in August 2005, when a car carrying Altai Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov grazed another car and crashed into a tree, killing the governor.

The governor's car was traveling at more than 200 kilometers per hour with flashing lights and sirens.

The driver in the other car was found guilty in the accident, provoking national protests.

The driver was eventually acquitted.

A slew of traffic accidents were reported across the country this weekend.

A driver ran over 13 bystanders, killing two, during an illegal street race late Saturday night in Kazan, Gazeta.ru reported.

In Moscow, a young woman struck two women, a 6-year-old child and a baby carriage with a 6-month-old baby, the news portal said. All four were hospitalized with various injuries.

The drivers in both accidents fled, and police were looking for them Monday.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said a total of 766 traffic accidents killed 121 people on Sunday, including three major accidents in the Chelyabinsk, Vologda and Krasnodar regions.